By Eugene Ong, Temasek Polytechnic
Early this year, I went through a transition when I decided to leave my church’s youth ministry. I felt there was a lack of direction and that the focus of the rest of the leaders had drifted away from its people or its mission. Being one of the leaders in that community, I understood that things had to change to meet the needs of our members, but although I voiced my concerns, sadly, they were turned down. Time and again I tried to make my voice heard, but I kept getting shut down. It reached a point where I lost hope that things would change and I chose to leave the community. Unknowingly, the hurts and wounds I carried with me from this departure then drove me into isolation. I strayed away from Church, made worse by the work-from-home situation, with no face-to-face contact. I began to stay away from church activities and prayer and faith took a backseat in my life.
After much reflection, I found a constant; it was God’s continuous presence. Christ the shepherd, led me. Through this time of transition, I felt that the shepherd was leading this sheep, the sheep that felt hurt and angered. The good shepherd saw this broken sheep that walked away from the flock and lifted this sheep onto his shoulders. He told this sheep to rest in his embrace and that he will be there for this poor sheep no matter what. From this experience in prayer, the encouragement from my parents, and through the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I decided to cling onto God, to look for an avenue to grow in faith and to have a touchpoint with the greater church community.
But why was there a need for me to continue being in community?
As youth united in our faith, we are a community. As mentioned in Gaudete Et Exsultate, the apostolic exhortation by our Holy Father Francis in 2018, when we live apart from others, it is challenging to fight against the snares of the devil and the worldliness that we may be tempted with. Without a community, I started to pursue the “bread” of this world, the desires for material goods and for the affirmation and acceptance of others. However, the Lord led me to continue searching for community. That is where I stumbled upon the Temasek Polytechnic community I currently stand amongst and I have not regretted my decision. Since I joined, this community has been a pillar of support in my journey to holiness. We have gone through formation through the themes in the “Life of the Beloved”, and the series on “Who is Jesus”, the sharings and input have enlightened me on how I can live my faith.
Sheep without their shepherd will walk without aim. Similarly, in this journey of life when faced with my brokenness, I tried to sort life out by myself and had begun to feel unworthy and wounded. But the community gave me that opportunity to put this brokenness aside and bask in the love of God. To be able to share a common identity, not just as friends, but being one in God’s love. Just as the disciples, though filled with fear, were challenged to trust in Jesus, that he could calm the storm. We as a community are challenged to trust in the lord even if we are facing uncertainty.This identity had begun to form in my previous community, but it got shaken and had started to break down amidst the developing pandemic. However, with the TP community my understanding of my identity has grown. I am now convicted in Roman 8: 38-39, that nothing, not even a pandemic, can separate us from the love of God.
Another aspect of community that I hold dear to is the safe space and love. This community has made room for me to be vulnerable, to be able to look at what lies in the depths of my heart and to acknowledge that God will never abandon me even if I abandon him or place him second in my life. Through the trust and the constant check-ins, I have received that love and care that Christ desires for me. Imagine a sheep, with wool dirtied from the mud that it had been walking on, that had tripped and fallen many times, with open wounds. A sheep, tired and frustrated, not knowing where it was going. That sheep was me, hurt by the past. I saw the Good Shepherd walk toward me. The Good Shepherd had adopted this sheep two years ago, when I was baptised. He led me into different communities, various parish ministries and now my TP community. In this process, He has healed my wounds, given me strength and removed frustration through His love, which was expressed through my community as well.
How I see God has evolved as I journey in this community. I now know that the Good Shepherd seeks to find that one lost sheep, to heal and use that sheep as his instrument. As he knows each sheep in his flock, each sheep knows him; the formation and input in community have helped me know my shepherd and believe in His truth. Christ said he is the good shepherd, not just a good one but THE good one. He is and will always be the perfect shepherd of our TP community and our own lives. My prayer for this community is that we become sheep that not only know our shepherd but believe and trust in the Good Shepherd.
The good shepherd who knows each of our names, calls out to you, Will you trust and walk into his open arms?